That's the best word to describe this area of Georgia. There is nothing like huge, hulking mountains to make one feel small in this vast, amazing world. Kazbegi is, by far, my favorite place in this richly diverse country. It is my kind of place -- a place where hiking or mountain biking can be done on trails or anywhere else one pleases.
James, Katherine, Maria, and I met three guys on the marshutka on the way up here yesterday -- Gil from Israel, Thomas from the Netherlands, and Mattias from Belgium. We all ended up staying at the same guesthouse and hiked together today (except for Gil, he was hiking somewhere else). We all went to Gergeti Church, also called Stepanstsminda; an old church that is set up on a mountain in the middle of the Caucasus Range. It lies in the shadow of one of the highest mountains in this range, Mt. Kazbek. I had made mention of it earlier and said that it is the highest mountain in Europe. It's not. But at 16, 512 feet tall, it's big.
After hiking to the church, Thomas, Mattias and I decided to climb another mountain that was next to the church. It was fantastic. The weather was not the best today, so we couldn't see the peaks that remained shrouded by the fog and mist until this evening; but we still had some amazing views. The pictures don't even begin to show the grandeur of this place, but I am going to post some anyway. Just know that the scale does not translate!
|Stepanstsminda (Holy Trinity Cathedral)|
|Our group: Mattias, Thomas, me, Maria, James, and Katherine on the edge|
of the lawn by the church -- behind that bank of fog are some amazing mountains
|Me on the ridge opposite the church.... that little building on the mountain behind me....|
|Lovely little alpine flowers dotted the mountainsides despite the cold wind|
|The rain in the valley drove us off the mountain sooner than we wanted to go|
|From the highest point I hiked to today -- on the left is Stepanstsminda --|
and on the left, the lower slopes of Mt. Kazbek
|Sunset over the mountains and Stepanstsminda|
It was an amazing day. And tomorrow is supposed to be clear.... hoping for another amazing day in the mountains. Until then.....